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Tony Williams

Tony Williams' death in 1997 of a heart attack after routine gall bladder surgery was a major shock to the jazz world. Just 51, Williams (who could be a very loud drummer) seemed so youthful, healthy, and ageless even though he had been a major drummer for nearly 35 years. The open style that he created while with the Miles Davis Quintet in the mid- to late '60s remains quite influential, and he had a long list of accomplishments during the decades that followed. Williams' father, a saxophonist, took his son out to clubs that gave him an opportunity to sit in; at 11, the youngster already showed potential. He took lessons from Alan Dawson, and at 15 was appearing at Boston-area jam sessions. During 1959-1960, Williams often played with Sam Rivers, and in December 1962 (when he was barely 17), the drummer moved to New York and played regularly with Jackie McLean. Within a few months he joined Miles Davis, where his ability to imply the beat while playing quite freely influenced and inspired the other musicians; together with Herbie Hancock and Ron Carter he was part of one of the great rhythm sections. Williams, who was 18 when he appeared on Eric Dolphy's classic Out to Lunch album, stayed with Davis into 1969, leading his own occasional sessions and becoming a household name in the jazz world.

In addition to his interest in avant-garde jazz, Tony Williams was a fan of rock music, and when he left Miles he formed the fusion band Lifetime, a trio with Larry Young and John McLaughlin. After leading other versions of Lifetime (one of them starring Allan Holdsworth), Williams stuck to freelancing for a time, studied composition, and toured with Herbie Hancock's V.S.O.P. band. By the mid-'80s, he was heading his own all-star hard bop group which featured Wallace Roney as a surrogate Miles Davis and a repertoire dominated by the drummer's originals (including the standard "Sister Cheryl"). After breaking up his longtime quintet in 1995, Williams gigged a bit with a trio, recorded a very interesting set of original music for the Ark 21 label, and seemed to have a limitless future. His premature death makes one grateful that he started his career early and that he was extensively documented. ~ Scott Yanow, Rovi
full bio

Comments

One of the great, unique drumming styles. Whether playing some of Miles Davis' be-bop or fusion, or his own acts, Williams was one of a kind. Special drummer. Made the flam a popular technique.
chasingadrea m 1 9 8 6
U free kin believable.. . amazing drummer. i like this...
To ibrodinski.. . I was at those shows as well.! (bottom line circa '76) Holdsworth was cool but seeing Tony and those yellow Gretsch's changed me and my drumming forever!
philippepelu s o
saw Tony Williams at a Jazz festival in Frejus, France in late 70s and they were setting up his drums as Lenny White (another giant drummer) was playing with his band, and Tony W. started to play along Lenny doing drum dialog back and forth, it was great because I still remember the exchange, until Tony W. was drumming so fast that Lenny let him go on on his own and cheered in admiration, that's musicanship for sure!!
pmorrison184
i played this album for a kid down the street from me and is an accomplished drummer. He has since changed his whole attitude to playing. Played him Fred. Patrick Morrison
The quintet reunion tour with Wallace Roney was great. I am sure Miles would have been pleased.
the lifetime were big records with fluid beats and really kicked a**. listening to red alert
I've loved this man's music ever since I first heard it in the 70s!
You're right lbrodinsky. I 've had this album for a long time but never really listened to it til I heard Snake Oil here on my Return to Forever station. Masterful Geniusness at work here!
lbrodinsky
this is one of the most unheralded albums of all time. An unbeatable team in both Tony and Allan. I, too were fortunate to witness the performance a few of you speak of at the Bottom Line Club in NY.
pretty amazing ride cymbal work. the tune im listening to is fred from believe it i do a radio show www.horrible r e a l i t y l a n d . c o m show is TRIBALAND please give it a listen
Whoever wrote the bio needs some help
Tony had a style all his own.I can always tell when its him playing.as a jazz/fusion drummer myself I have always been influenced by Tony.He was one of the best drummers of all time I was heartbroken when he passed.R.I.P . tony you were loved
One of God's Master Musician's. Perfection embodied in his soul. This master lives on and on for those who appreciated his Mastery.
dbrown900
It's a shame to lose talented people like we do. I can think of numerous artist that have left us way too soon, and wonder what kind of music they would have created today, had the fickled finger of fate pointed in a different direction.
I met Tony in Norfolk..cau g h t him at Harvey's Lounge..many years ago and still flabbergaste d ! What a time.
I was lucky to sit in a Drum clinic in Wisconsin with Tony Williams. Unfortanatly 4 months latter he was dead. I will really miss his music.
another chime in. who was lucky enough to have seen the lifetime doing believe stuff with holdsworth master shredder. come forward friends. im not one who can say i diddd
such great comments for the master.alway s would reccommend believe it to the uniniated. seen him once. god love you tony.
Back in the 70's Tony would drop in to take a lesson from my drum teacher, Chuck Brown, in Oakland -- because Tony was always a student of music, a serious, always growing artist--Man, he was a huge star who kept taking lessons to create more drum licks! Seeing him in the Village one night on stage with Lifetime at the Bottom Line in the mid-70s I was just knocked out by how intense Tony was as he played, a sweet perfectionis t with super chops.
Tony was a once in a life time musician. He is missed by many not only in the drumming community, but in the music community as well.
Tony was my reknowned teacer and mentor. i miss his unplayed ryhtms which I feel would have been amazing. The freedom in which he played and kept the beat was phenomenal.

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